I fidget in my seat, trying to get comfortable as the train rushes through the French countryside to our destination. It’s not my clothes that are making me restless, of course- my pleated white miniskirt and loose patterned tank top feel perfect against my smooth, hairless skin. It isn’t even the disapproving stare of my father at my long, slender legs that makes me uncomfortable. The source of my restlessness, for once, is my three younger sisters- or rather, the thing that’s also making them restless!
“Is that Disneyland!?” Cassie practically shrieks as we pass by a large building in a field.
“No, it’s MUCH bigger than that!” I say, giggling as my little sister’s jaw drops. “We’ll be there soon, don’t worry, it’s not like it won’t be there when we arrive!”
“I can’t wait!” Cassie squeaks, wriggling around in her seat so much that she has to be calmed down by our mother.
“Will we see Elsa and Anna?” Dorothy asks, clearly as restless as her sister.
“We’ll see ALL the princesses!” I reply, making the four year old girl gasp with excitement as I remember back to the last time I went to Disneyland, a full nine years ago.
Of course, things were a bit different back then. I was just five, Bryony was only two, and my other three siblings hadn’t even been born yet. Many of the attractions back then were different… And most importantly of all, I was every bit a little boy. Naturally, I was just as excited then as Cassie is now. I had my photo taken with Mickey, Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy… But no photos with Minnie Mouse or any of the princesses. As I went around the park and saw all the princesses in their beautiful, flowing dresses, and all the little girls my age who were there dressed in costume, I wondered- sometimes aloud- why I wasn’t able to be dressed just as beautifully as them, only to be told ‘that’s only for girls’, which would inevitably make me cry.
This time, however, there won’t be any tears. If I want to wear a skirt to Disneyland, I will. If I want to wear a costume, I will. And if I want to be a princess, then I most definitely WILL. Nothing’s going to hold me back this time… Although I may end up having to ‘wait my turn’, judging by the enthusiasm of my sisters! Whilst Cassie and Dorothy are open about their excitement, Bryony is trying to be ‘cooler’- though the fact that her left leg keeps shaking is an obvious giveaway that she’s just as restless as the rest of us!
“Excited?” I ask the eleven year old girl, who responds by looking at me with a disinterested look on her face.
“No,” Bryony blatantly lies. “Maybe a little.”
“…I heard that Emma Watson might be there today,” I lie, giggling as Bryony- whose favourite movie is Beauty and the Beast (both versions)- suddenly looks at me with a look of utter joy on her face.
“Ashley!” Mum chastises. “Stop teasing your sisters!”
“Sorry,” I mumble, giggling again as Bryony pouts at me.
“I hope you won’t keep bullying her the next two years at secondary school,” mum says in a cautionary tone of voice.
“No, of course not,” I chuckle. “Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryony’s more excited about big school than Disney, heh!”
“No I’m not,” Bryony instantly retorts. “…Maybe a bit.”
“I knew it,” I say with a smug grin, earning an eye roll from my sister.
“God,” Bryony spits. “You’ve got so annoying since you became a girl…” The mood in the carriage instantly drops as bryony looks at the floor with shame in her eyes. “…Sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry,” I sigh, giving my blushing sister a quick cuddle. “And remember- I didn’t BECOME a girl. I was a girl the whole time, right?”
“Right,” Bryony says, the smile returning to her face.
“That’s better,” mum says. “It’s especially wrong for the two of you to fight when this whole holiday is to celebrate your exam results!”
“Yes mum,” Bryony and I mumble as our younger sisters both have a giggle at our expense.
“…And as my exam results were better than Ashley’s, can I decide where we go first at Disneyland?” Bryony asks, smirking wickedly as I roll my eyes.
“My exams were harder than yours,” I remind my sister.
“They’re supposed to be, you’re older than me,” Bryony retorts.
“She’s got you there,” mum says as I roll my eyes yet again, before gazing to my right and sighing at the sight of my father fussing over my baby brother, both of them oblivious to our conversation- but for very different reasons.
Eddy, of course, is just sixteen months old, only knows how to say a few words and is far more interested in his stuffed Mickey Mouse toy than in what his sisters are doing. Dad, on the other hand…
When we first came to Disneyland in 2008, me and dad were inseparable. Or rather, dad lavished every bit of attention he had on me. He queued for every ride with me, watched every parade, bought seemingly every bit of merchandise the park had to offer… And scowled deeply at me every time I expressed interest in anything feminine. As far as he was concerned, I was his perfect boy, the ‘chip off the old block’, and he was going to do everything within his power to ensure I stayed that way. And then, fifteen months ago, when I told him that I couldn’t be the son he wanted, it was like he decided that if I didn’t want to be his son, then he didn’t want to be my father.
The frustrating thing is that dad’s more than happy to spend time with any of my sisters. He’ll help Bryony with her homework (on the off chance that she needs it, anyway), he’ll watch Cassie’s dancing with great interest and read bedtime stories about fairies and princesses to Dorothy every night, but when it comes to doing anything with me- not just anything girly, but ANYTHING- it’s like he’s physically incapable of showing affection toward me. As my testosterone blockers start to take effect, I sometimes end up crying myself to sleep over the situation- but I know that if I tell dad this, it’ll just drive him even further away.
My anxiety fades, however, when the train reaches the vast Gare de Lille Europe and the seven of us disembark, heading to the platform to catch our connecting train to Disneyland. I allow myself a little giggle as I reach toward Bryony to hold her hand- a gesture the eleven year old girl naturally recoils from like my hand was a cobra. Cassie, of course, is only too happy to hold my hand, while Dorothy holds onto mum’s hand and (obviously) dad carries Eddy in addition to pushing the trolley with all our luggage on it.
“You know,” I say to the six year old girl gripping my hand, Paris is also the city where the Ballerina movie is set…” I bite my lip and giggle as Cassie looks at me with a look of utter joy on her face, while my parents- and my oldest sister- all grimace as they know what’s coming next.
"Paris is the Ballerina city!?” Cassie squeaks as Bryony groans. “And it has Disneyland too!? It must be the best city EVER!”
“Just wait until she sees Orlando,” mum says with a chuckle. “And yes, you can watch the DVD when you get home. But aren’t you more excited to see all the Disney princesses?” Mum smiles as Cassie enthusiastically nods while practically bouncing up and down with excitement. “Well, we’re only one train ride away now…”
Naturally, that train ride passes in a frenzy of excitement- especially as my sisters aren’t the only excited young kids on the train- and before long, the seven of us are stood outside the entrance to Disneyland Paris, wide smiles on all of our faces- well, all but one of our faces.
“Come on,” dad grumbles, leading the family to the ticket windows where our passes are checked and we’re allowed into the vast park.
“We’ll drop our cases off at the hotel first then go and get something to eat,” mum says.
“Can we go and see the princesses?” Cassie squeaks excitedly.
“It’s late in the day,” mum says firmly. “By the time we’ve eaten it’ll almost be time for bed. We can see the princesses tomorrow.”
“But I want to see them now…” Cassie pouts, practically bouncing up and down with excitement.
“They’re not going anywhere,” I say to the distraught six year old girl. “And besides, don’t you want to see them tomorrow wearing your special dress, instead of what you’re wearing now?” Fortunately, this causes Cassie to perk up and she nods enthusiastically, giggling even despite the silent ‘thank you’ mum mouths at me.
“Can we see Elsa first?” Cassie asks, making Dorothy suddenly perk up.
“Can we please?” The four year old girl asks, causing mum to roll her eyes all over again.
“…Yes, of course we can,” our mother sighs as we head toward our hotel. “It’s gonna be a long three days…”
Even though I’m fourteen, I- like all my sisters- still let out a gasp of excitement as we enter the suite in Disney's Explorers Hotel where we’ll be staying for the next few days. With old-fashioned doors and beds, the 'Princess Suite' more than lives up to its name- and it's obvious the sisters definitely approve! I can’t help but shoot a smug grin in the direction of my father, however, as Bryony and I head into our room to unpack, whilst mum helps my younger siblings with their unpacking.
When we’d booked the suite, dad had been adamant that we get a four bedroom suite- mum and dad in one room with Eddy in a cot, me in one room, Bryony in another and Cassie and Dorothy sharing. Naturally, this immediately got a question from Cassie over why she and Dorothy had to share, but me and Bryony couldn’t. Dad attempted to justify his decision by saying that me and Bryony would have to get changed in front of each other. Naturally, that raised the question of WHY that would be a problem, as girls get changed in front of each other all time, at school or at a swimming pool- and at that point, dad decided to cut his losses and book myself and Bryony into the same room. The same room Bryony and I are now sat in, packing away the numerous dresses, skirts and tops we’ve brought to the park with us.
“Ah, this is so exciting!” I enthuse, earning an eye roll from my younger sister. “You probably don’t remember when we came here, when you were, like, 2…”
“No, but mum’s shown me the photos,” Bryony says, not batting an eyelid as I strip off my top and my skirt to reveal the soft cotton bra and panties underneath. “I AM looking forward to it, honest.”
“Just nervous about school?” I ask as I reach for a loose, fashionable summer dress to pull over my body and pull a pair of low-heeled sandals from my case. “Only a couple of weeks now…”
“Nervous about DAD,” Bryony spits. “If it was up to him we wouldn’t even be sharing a room.”
“And you’d be UPSET about that?” I tease.
“I actually would,” Bryony mumbles, frowning as I ‘reward’ her with a hug.
“Aww…” I coo, barely suppressing my giggles. “…I’d have been upset too.”
“Well, obviously,” Bryony says. “Dad still doesn’t think you’re a real girl.”
“And do you?” I ask, before averting my gaze as Bryony changes from her t-shirt and shorts into a summer dress of her own. “…That answers my question, I guess.”
“Can you put a little make-up on me, please?” My sister asks, making me giggle as I reach into my make-up bag for my spare mascara brush.
“Don’t let mum or dad see your eyes over dinner,” I caution as I enhance my little sister’s eyelashes with the brush. “You got in enough trouble when you were obsessed with make-up when you were younger…”
“I think dad will be more angry if he sees you wearing make-up,” Bryony says, making me pause.
“…Well then he’ll just need to accept the fact that girls wear make-up, won’t he?” I say with a smug grin.
“Or he’ll sulk all holiday,” Bryony spits.
“Well that’s no reason for either of us to,” I say, putting away my make-up brush and handing Bryony a compact mirror to check her look. “Like it?”
“Love it,” the eleven year old girl says with a smile.
"Want me to do your hair too?" I ask, not waiting for permission before tying my sister's hair into a tight braid. “Guess I’d better do my make-up too, heh!” After finishing Bryony's braid, I have to keep myself from giggling as I enhance my own mascara and eyeliner, before applying a liberal coat of deep red lipstick to my mouth, something that makes Bryony giggle excitedly.
“No, you CAN’T have any,” I say. “…Maybe when you’re fourteen, hehe!”
“I can’t wait to see dad’s reaction to your lipstick,” Bryony says with a smug smirk that makes me sigh sadly.
“Bryony…” I sigh. “You- I really don’t want you to hate dad, you know? Or, like, feel you have to hate him on my behalf or something.”
“Well then he’ll just have to-“ Bryony spits, before I’m able to successfully shush her.
“Not here,” I whisper. “I mean, it’s not like I don’t appreciate it, but- but let’s just try to enjoy the holiday, okay?”
“Okay,” Bryony mumbles as we head back out into the living room area of our suite, where- as predicted- mum instantly tuts at the limited make-up Bryony’s wearing, while dad almost shudders at the sight of me in my dress and my make-up.
“What a pretty dress!” Cassie exclaims, running up and gently stroking the flimsy fabric of my skirt. “I think mine’s prettier, though!” I can’t help but giggle as I do a playful twirl for Cassie, who does a twirl of her own to show off her Frozen-inspired light blue dress.
“I think it is too!” I giggle, bending down to give the six year old girl a cuddle. “So’s yours, Dorothy!”
“Thank you Ashley!” Dorothy squeaks as she does her own slightly less coordinated twirl, which naturally earns a cuddle from me. “I love your dress too Bryony!”
“And I love your hair too!” Cassie squeaks, tentatively reaching toward Bryony’s braid. “How did you make it be like that? It's like Elsa's hair!”
“Ashley tied it for me,” Bryony says, causing Cassie’s jaw to drop as she looks toward me.
“Can you tie my hair like that too, Ashley?” Cassie asks.
“…Maybe after dinner,” I say with a giggle. “I am STARVING, hehe!”
“Ah, think we need a picture of this first, though!” Mum giggles, reaching into her bag for her phone. “My four girls in their pretty dresses…” I giggle as I gather my three sisters around me and we all pose for our mother’s camera, though my smile fades when I see dad skulking off to one side, carrying our brother in one arm.
“Actually…” I say hesitantly. “Eddy should be in the photo as well!” I smile warmly over to where my father is stood, only to grimace when I see that if anything, my suggestion has made his mood even worse.
“Yeah!” Bryony says smugly. “I’ll hold him.” I bite my scarlet-coloured lip as Bryony playfully skips toward our father and takes our little brother into her arms, all the while seemingly (or rather, deliberately) oblivious of the middle-aged man’s worsening mood.
“…Perfect!” Mum hesitantly enthuses as the five of us pose for her camera. “Almost makes me want a sixth…”
“Let’s- let’s focus on the five we DO have!” Dad chuckles as he immediately takes Eddy back and leads us out of our suite and to one of the park’s many restaurants.
Naturally- after hours on a train with only snacks to sustain us- the seven of us eat our fill, and by the time we arrive back at our hotel, all of us- even Cassie- are tired and almost ready for bed. Our mood soon perks up, however, when mum switches on the suite’s widescreen TV, which is obviously tuned to the Disney Channel and showing The Little Mermaid. Naturally, we five kids are glued to the screen for the duration of the film- or rather, we would be if dad hadn’t taken Eddy away less than twenty minutes after the start of the film, stating that it’s past his bedtime even though thanks to us crossing a time zone, it’s technically BEFORE his usual bedtime. Naturally, this doesn’t go unnoticed by my sisters.
“Do I have to go to bed too?” Dorothy asks with a deep pout.
“No, no, you can stay up and watch the rest of the movie,” dad says with a smile as he bends down to kiss the tiny girl on her forehead. “You ARE on holiday after all!”
“But so is Eddy!” Cassie protests. “And they’re about to sing the under the sea song!”
“Yes, but Eddy’s still just a baby,” dad ‘explains’. “He needs more care and more sleep than you older girls.” Next to me, I see Bryony opening her mouth, ready to retort to our father, but she wisely thinks better of it and stays silent until both of our male relatives have left the room.
“He also needs to be kept away from girl things,” Bryony mumbles.
“But The Little Mermaid isn’t just for girls,” Cassie moans.
“I know that, you know that,” Bryony sighs.
“Let’s- let’s just enjoy the film,” I say. “I’ll put the subtitles on so we can all sing along, okay?” Fortunately, this does the trick as Cassie and Dorothy both nod enthusiastically, and before long, the four of us are all singing along to the tunes that we’ve all heard countless times. Even Bryony has a smile on her face by the end of the film, though as we’re getting ready for bed, the frown quickly returns to her face.
“I am right about dad and Eddy,” Bryony says.
“Bryony…” I sigh. “…I know you are. But sulking about it won’t help. If anything, I’M the one who should be sulking.”
“I hope when Eddy grows up, he becomes a girl too,” Bryony snorts.
“Trust me,” I say. “He’s better off if he doesn’t. And NOT for dad’s sake. For- for Eddy’s sake. You and the other girls are so lucky, you’re actually happy in the skin you’re in.” I frown as Bryony’s silence shows that I’ve obviously touched a nerve with her.
“…Sorry,” Bryony mumbles, before sighing and frowning as I give her a gentle hug.
“Apology accepted,” I say with a giggle. “Just try to enjoy the holiday! We’re in the coolest place in the whole of Europe, you know?”
“…Yeah,” Bryony says with a grin. “Okay. Good night, Ashley.”
“G’night, Bryony,” I say, exchanging another hug with my sister before climbing underneath my sheets and quickly falling into a deep sleep.
The following morning, Bryony and I are woken early by the sound of the suite’s TV playing cartoons- and more notably, the laughter of three very young children. When we emerge from our room, we’re not surprised to find Cassie, Dorothy and Eddy sat on the sofa- though we are slightly surprised to see Cassie already dressed in the sparkling light blue dress of her favourite princess, and Dorothy in the deep green dress of HER favourite princess.
“Hi Ashley! Hi Bryony!” Cassie squeaks, doing a twirl in her elaborate dress. “Can you guess who I am?”
“Yeah… Aren’t you Cassie?” I tease, trying not to giggle as the six year old girl angrily pouts at me.
“No, I’m Elsa!” Cassie says. “And Dorothy is Anna because she’s my little sister and Anna is Elsa’s little sister!”
“I am!” Dorothy giggles, jumping off the sofa and giving ‘Elsa’ a playful hug.
“So, does that make Eddy Olaf?” I ask, giggling as Cassie’s jaw drops at the idea.
“Daddy! Daddy!” Cassie squeaks, running up to our parents’ room and knocking on the door. “Can we get Eddy an Olaf costume? Pleeeeeeease?”
“That was your fault,” Bryony says, making me roll my eyes and giggle.
“I know,” I say. “Dibs on the shower!” I let out an evil laugh as I run toward the suite’s bathroom, locking the door and laughing even harder as Bryony waggles the door handle in vain.
After showering and applying my make-up –the same amount I put on last night- I head back to my bedroom (pulling my dressing gown on first, of course) where I get dressed for the day ahead. Rather than wear a hot, heavy costume like my sisters (who, unsurprisingly, have had cooler clothes put in a bag for them), I opt for a very plain ruffled black miniskirt and a plain white tank top. Before I pull them on, though, I sort out my underwear first. After pulling on my cool cotton panties, I remember a trick Laura taught me a while back and grin as I pull out the roll of tape I smuggled into the hotel. I pinch my chest together at the front, before wrapping a few layers of tape around and pulling on my bra, padding it out with a sock in each cup to give the illusion of 'shape'. Satisfied with my look, I slip my feet into a pair of dark blue flip-flops (I opt against heels as I’ll be on my feet for most of the day and, well, I am already 5’ 8"), grab my handbag and head out into the living area of the suite, where Bryony breathes a sigh of relief as she’s allowed into the room to get dressed… And dad takes one look at me before averting his gaze, almost like he’s allergic to the sight of me with cleavage. Though the sight of the QPR shirt on both my father and my brother elicits a similar reaction from me...
“Ashley…” Cassie says hesitantly.
“Cassie…?” I reply.
“Can- can you tie my hair to be like Elsa’s?” The tiny girl asks. “Like Bryony’s hair yesterday?”
“Of course I can!” I giggle, sitting Cassie down on the sofa next to me and gently braiding her long blonde hair. “Ahh… I wish I had hair as long as yours…”
“It’ll grow,” mum says, gently stroking my shoulder-length hair. “Maybe this time next year we’ll have FOUR Elsas…”
“No, there’s only one Elsa!” Cassie protests. “Ashley and Bryony can be other princesses.”
“That suits me, I’d rather be Cinderella anyway,” I giggle. “And I know Bryony would rather be Belle. Even if she does look more like Aurora.”
“And Eddy can be Olaf!” Cassie squeaks excitedly.
“…If he wants to be,” dad mumbles. “Come on Bryony, hurry up!”
“You- you can’t rush a girl when she’s getting ready!” I say, before biting my lip as dad shoots an angry glare at me. “Umm… So, umm, where we heading today?”
“Elsa and Anna! Elsa and Anna!” Cassie squeaks, with Dorothy eagerly nodding in agreement.
“…Think that’s that decided!” Mum laughs as Bryony emerges from our bedroom wearing a very cute long-legged floral print jumpsuit. “You sure you’ll be okay wearing that, Bryony? It’s very hot today, don’t want your legs boiling…”
“Yeah, free the knee!” I giggle, cycling my bare, hairless legs and making the eleven year old girl roll her eyes.
“I’m fine,” Bryony shrugs.
“Well I’m taking along spare clothes for your sisters, I’ll put a t-shirt and a pair of shorts in the bag for you as well in case you change your mind,” mum says, heading into our bedroom.
“You don’t want tanned legs ready for the start of school?” I ask.
“We have to wear tights at school anyway,” Bryony retorts.
“Not for PE, we don’t…” I tease, giggling as the eleven year old girl rolls her eyes. Fortunately for my sister, our mother quickly returns with a bag bulging with clothes, and before long, we’re leaving our hotel room behind and heading through the main gate, along Main Street U.S.A. and toward Fantasyland, my younger siblings getting more excited every step of the way.
Naturally, the morning passes REALLY fast as we check out many of the park’s attractions. Cassie and Dorothy obviously have their photos taken with the ‘real’ Elsa and Anna, with mum looking really grateful she paid for a fast pass as the short time they spent waiting was enough to make both girls very agitated! After spending the exploring everything Fantasyland has to offer, we head back to Main Street U.S.A. and to a fun looking restaurant called Casey's Corner. Naturally, Cassie and Dorothy take the opportunity to change out of their extra-hot costumes, leaving me, dad, Bryony and Eddy to order the family’s food.
“Ah, I am STARVING!” I giggle as I sit down with my meal and cross one tanned leg over the other.
“Me too!” Bryony says with a chuckle. “God, this place is so AWESOME!”
“Knew you’d be smiling again eventually,” I tease my sister, who responds by giggling as she nibbles her fries.
“Yeah, I’m having fun,” Bryony mumbles.
“Glad to hear it,” dad says as he and Eddy sit down on the opposite side of the table to us. “The holiday definitely cost enough!”
“Yeah, but it’s worth it, though,” I say with a grin as my mum and my freshly-changed sisters emerge from the ladies’ toilet.
“I’m glad you’re both having fun,” dad mumbles, still unable to look in my direction. “I know you are, aren’t you Eddy? Even despite all the princesses and fairies…” I force out a grin as the toddler laughs in response to our father’s question, but a quick glance to my side shows that Bryony’s face has fallen into a deep frown.
“Don’t,” I whisper to my sister, who just frowns even deeper and turns her attention back to her lunch.
“Show me the picture of me with Elsa again!” Cassie- whose hot costume did nothing to dampen her excitement- squeaks as she, Dorothy and mum sit down at our table.
“Okay…” I playfully sigh as I get out my phone for the delighted girl.
“Where shall we go next?” Dorothy squeaks.
“We’ve got the whole park to choose from,” mum laughs. “Bryony, why don’t you choose where we go next?” I smirk as the moody eleven year old girl’s eyes suddenly widen with excitement.
“Can- can we see the princess Pavilion next?” Bryony gasps.
“Of COURSE we can!” Mum giggles. “After we finish lunch.” My smirk become a fully-fledged laugh as Bryony’s appetite suddenly increases and she practically chokes in her eagerness to finish her meal.
“Ashley should choose where we go tomorrow!” Cassie suddenly announces. “I chose this morning, Bryony’s choosing this afternoon, so Ashley should choose tomorrow!”
“Tomorrow we’re spending all day at Adventureland, remember?” Mum reminds my sister. “Though we will have Thursday morning, if you want to pick then, Ashley?”
“Sure,” I shrug. “Wish we had more than three days here, think we were here for a week last time we came!”
“Last time we came there were only two of you,” dad reminds me. “And- and, umm, there was less to see…”
“Not THAT much less,” I retort, frowning as the table suddenly grows quiet. “Umm… Anyone want an ice cream after lunch?” Unsurprisingly, Cassie and Dorothy’s arms immediately shoot into the air.
“Great, just what they need, more sugar,” mum snorts with a roll of her eyes.
“Ehh, may as well enjoy the holiday,” dad shrugs. “I’ll take them while you, Bryony and A- Ash head to your, well, thing.”
“What, I’m not allowed to have an ice cream too?” I protest, briefly pouting before stopping when that simple action brings a DEEP frown to my father’s face.
“…Fine,” dad sighs, earning cheers from Cassie and Dorothy as they rush to finish their meals.
A short while later, I and the rest of my family (minus mum and Bryony) are stood in a short queue at a nearby ice cream stand, where I begin to see what mum was talking about as I’m charged with holding my sisters’ hands as we wait to be served.
“You’re not going to get your ice cream any faster if you keep running around in circles!” I chastise Dorothy as she dances around on the end of my arm.
“But it’s taking AGES,” Dorothy moans.
“Then it’ll just taste even better when you get it, won’t it?” I reply, which actually elicits a chuckle from our father.
“You tell ‘em, DAD,” my father says, before both of our jaws drop as dad realises exactly what he just said. “Uh- umm…”
“I- I, umm,” I mumble, before placing Dorothy’s hand in Cassie’s and handing both of my sisters over to our father. “I don’t fancy ice cream anymore, I- I’m going to catch up, umm, with mum and Bryony…”
“Okay,” dad whispers. “We- we’ll catch you up.” I nod once, before walking away while desperately trying to blink back tears.
It’s been fifteen whole months since I came out to my father, and a full nine months since I last identified as a boy in any way, shape or form, and yet my father still can’t get it through his thick skull that his son is now his daughter. We’ve even attended counselling sessions together, where Dr Williamson has tried technique after technique to make dad face the truth, but nothing’s worked. Maybe it’s because I still have the same face- I’ve seen a few photos of Laura back before she was a girl, and she looks almost completely different now from that she did then. Maybe it’s because I still have the same name- Dr Williamson has said that many transgendered people change their name to establish their new identity and break from their older gender. But my identity IS Ashley Moore. I don’t want to be anyone different, I want to be Miss Ashley Moore. I was given a gender-neutral name- ironically enough, by my father- I may as well take advantage of it. Maybe it’s because I’m interested in girls, rather than boys…
I’m so lost in thought as I walk back to the Princess Pavilion that I barely notice the tall young man blocking my path until I almost knock him over.
“Whoa, careful!” The boy- who looks barely older than me- says, giggling as he grabs me by the shoulders to steady me.
“Uhh… Sorry,” I moan, shaking my head.
“You look lost,” the boy says. “Or lost in thought. One of the two, heh!”
“…Just had an argument with my dad,” I shrug. “He- he and I, umm… Yeah.”
“Yeah,” the boy laughs. “Been there, heh! I’m- I’m Mark, by the way.”
“Ashley,” I reply.
“Cute name!” Mark laughs, making me blush slightly. “So, you’re a Londoner too? What part are you from?”
“Hammersmith,” I reply.
“Leytonstone,” Mark says. “You said you’re here with your dad?”
“Whole family,” I playfully sigh. “Mum, dad, three little sisters, one baby brother. You?”
“Mum, dad, one little sister who’s utterly obsessed with all things Frozen,” Mark laughs.
“Yeah, I know THAT feeling,” I giggle.
“If I hear ‘Let it Go’ one more time,” Mark laughs. “So, umm… You at school? Or- or college, you know?”
“School,” I sigh. “Starting my GCSEs next month.”
“You’re only fourteen?” Mark asks incredulously. “You look older, like, seventeen, maybe eighteen…”
“Thanks, I think!” I laugh, before biting my lip as an older couple and a young girl- obviously Mark’s parents and sister- approach us.
“There you are!” My new friend’s father says, making the boy grimace.
“Ahh…” The clearly embarrassed Mark sighs. “Ashley, meet mum, dad and Janey… Umm, mum, dad, Janey, say hi to Ashley!”
“Hello Ashley,” Mark’s mother says in a clipped voice.
“We- we were just talking,” Mark insists. “Ashley’s from London too!”
“I- umm, I should probably get back to my parents…” I mumble as things get increasingly awkward.
“Well- umm…” Mark says as I prepare to head away. “Can- can I get your email address? If, you know, you want to, umm, keep in touch after the holidays?”
“Umm… Okay, I guess!” I giggle as Mark hands me a pen and I write my email address on his hand. “Well, see you, I guess!”
“See you, Ash!” Mark says with a sly grin as he walks away, leaving me with a bemused smile on my face. Sure, I hadn’t come on holiday expecting to make a new friend, but I’m not going to say no- after all, you can never have too many friends, and Mark seems pleasant enough. Sure, he’ll probably not fit in too well with the rest of my ‘excellent eight’, but then again, neither does George. Mark might even end up going out with one of the ‘excellent eight’…
“Hi, sorry I’m late,” I say as I catch up with my family. “How was the meet and greet?”
“…If you’re running late, TEXT US next time!” Mum sighs. “You’re only fourteen, for god’s sake. I was worried sick…”
“Sorry,” I mumble. “I- I just got chatting to someone, kinda lost track…”
“Who were you talking to?” Mum asks suspiciously.
“Umm, just some guy called Mark,” I reply. “He’s from London too! Gave him my email address in case we want to keep in touch after the holidays…”
“I- I thought you were only interested in girls?” Dad asks as the colour seems to drain from his face.
“I do,” I shrug. “It’s not like we were flirting or anything…”
“Ashley, you gave him your email address,” Bryony- of all people- says. “I’m only eleven and even I know that means you were flirting!”
“And dressed like that, all you need to do to flirt is open your mouth,” dad mumbles, making my chest suddenly feel very exposed.
“…I don’t like boys,” I mumble, adjusting my top so that it sits a little higher on my chest.
“No, but boys are inevitably going to like you,” mum says. “Did- did you tell him about, umm, you know?”
“No,” I mumble.
“Better that you don’t,” dad says in a dark voice. “You don’t want a matching scar over your right eye.”
“Anyway, let’s forget all about this,” mum says, desperately trying to lighten the mood. “We’re on holiday, we should be having fun!”
“Right!” Dad says. “So let’s finish exploring Fantasyland, get some dinner, watch the fireworks and get an early night, okay? Gonna have a LONG day at Adventureland tomorrow!”
And, naturally, that’s what we end up doing for the rest of the day as I try to put my ‘encounter’ behind me and enjoy the many delights that Disneyland has to offer. As I climb into the bottom bunk of my bed, however, I can’t help but think about the young man. From an objective standpoint, he is attractive, but that’s not what’s on my mind- it’s the fact that from an objective standpoint, he obviously finds ME attractive. And if he can, there’s no reason that other boys- or, better yet, other girls- can’t either.
As Bryony is obviously too young to ask for her opinion, I turn to the only people I know will help me out- my friends in London. After ensuring that my phone is connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi (the last thing I need is my parents bollocking me for running up a huge bill), I login to Facebook and smile when I see my other seven friends are all online and already engaged in a group chat- a group chat I’m immediately invited to join.
‘Hey Ashley!!!!’ Laura types. ‘How’s Disneyland?’
‘AMAZING,’ I reply with a string of ‘grinning’ emojis.
‘Met any princesses yet?’ Suriya asks. ‘Other than your sisters, of course!’
‘Other than Ashley herself!’ Mia types, earning ‘lol’s, ‘grinning# and ‘heart’ emojis from the other girls- myself included.
‘Check it out!’ I reply, sending the various photos I took today of me and my sisters with the Disney princesses.
‘Technically Elsa’s a queen, so she shouldn’t count!’ Nicole types.
‘You try telling Cassie that!’ I retort, earning ‘laughing’ emojis from the other girls. ‘Speaking of, how was ballet? Did I miss anything?’
‘No, just practising basic steps,’ Suriya replies. ‘Real practise for the next recital will start when we go back to school next month.’
‘Or college!’ Priya types with a ‘smug’ emoji.
‘Rub that in a bit more, Miss ‘eleven A stars’!’ Megan types, earning a string of ‘smug’ emojis from the sixteen year old girl.
‘Why are you Facebooking us anyway?’ Laura asks. ‘Thought you’d still be out seeing the park?’
‘Paris is an hour ahead of you,’ I explain. ‘And we have to get back to the hotel earlier for my brother and my sisters, so figured an early night means I can get an earlier start tomorrow.’
‘We’re DEFINITELY going to have to go ourselves at some point in the future,’ Harriet types. ‘Just the eight of us, like a road trip, maybe?’
‘As long as I don’t end up driving everywhere!’ Priya retorts.
‘Which one of us is the only one who’ll be seventeen within the next twelve months?’ Suriya asks her sister, who responds with a ‘rolling eyes’ emoji.
‘Might run into some- no, SEVERAL cute guys if it’s the eight of us together!’ Nicole types, making me bite my lip.
‘We’d have better luck at a beach,’ Laura types. ‘OMG! We should SO go next summer after we all finish school!’
‘Yeah, about that,’ I type.
‘OMG I’m so sorry!’ Laura types. ‘Keep forgetting you’re a year younger than us. We can wait two years, right?’
‘Hell yeah!’ Mia types. ‘Or we can persuade Ashley’s parents that we won’t corrupt 15 year old her!’
‘Good luck with that,’ I type with an eye rolling emoji. ‘But what Nicole said earlier is kinda what I want to talk about.’
‘What, cute boys?’ Nicole types. ‘Thought you weren’t interested in them?’
‘So did I,’ Harriet types with an ‘angry’ emoji that makes me wince.
‘Oh believe me, I’m not,’ I reply. ‘It’s just that earlier a guy kinda got interested in me.’ My cheeks turn bright red as my seven friends all reply with a barrage of ‘laughing’ ‘kissing’ and ‘heart’ emojis.
‘Ashley’s got a boyfriend!’ Nicole types, her message surrounded by ‘music’ and ‘heart’ emojis.
‘I do not!’ I protest. ‘We just chatted for a bit, that’s all.’
‘You may not have a boyfriend, but I bet he thinks he has a girlfriend!’ Suriya teases, making me roll my eyes.
‘Is this a new experience for you?’ Priya asks. ‘A guy hitting on you like this?’
‘Yes,’ I type, my cheeks turning an even deeper red.
‘Just proves that you ARE gorgeous and girly!’ Mia types with a ‘winking’ emoji.
‘Like there was ever any doubt,’ Laura types, making me grin. ‘I know cute guys aren’t your ‘thing’ Ash, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the attention!’
‘Definitely,’ Harriet types. ‘Boys are dumb, they only think about one thing and only think with one thing. No reason why the smart gender can’t take advantage of this!’
‘Not ALL boys suck, though,’ Megan types.
‘No, but nearly all of them do,’ Harriet replies. ‘Just count yourself lucky that you don’t have to deal with them, Ash!’
‘I do have a little brother,’ I reply. ‘And there’s my dad too.’
‘Your brother still wears nappies, we can let him off for now,’ Harriet retorts. ‘Though you’re right about your dad. He needs a REAL attitude adjustment.’
‘I guess he’s not been as hyped for Disneyland as you or your sisters?’ Laura asks.
‘You guess right,’ I type with a sigh. ‘It’s obvious he’d rather be anywhere else. Watching football or Star Wars, probably.’
‘No reason girls can’t like football or Star Wars,’ Priya types.
‘No reason Ashley’s dad can’t like Frozen or Beauty and the Beast,’ Mia retorts. ‘My brothers laughed at my dad when he took me to see Frozen in the cinema but he loved it as much as I did.’
‘Exactly,’ Harriet types. ‘Macho idiots, all of them.’
‘You don’t need to convince me,’ I reply with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji that earns grinning ones in reply from all the girls.
‘As long as you’re having fun, that’s the important thing,’ Priya types.
‘You and your super-cute sisters, anyway!’ Suriya interjects, swapping ‘sticking out tongue’ emojis with her sister.
‘Speaking of which, Sabrina says hi to Bryony!’ Nicole types, making me giggle.
“Bryony,” I say to the girl in the bunk above me. “I’m talking to Sabrina’s sister, she says h-“
“I know, I’m talking to Sabrina too,” Bryony says, making me giggle as I lean my head out of the bunk to see the familiar glow of her smartphone illuminating her face.
‘Bryony says hi too,’ I reply with a ‘winking’ emoji. ‘G2G now girlies, need my beauty sleep!’
‘Or not!’ Nicole says with a ‘sticking out tongue’ emoji that makes me blush and roll my eyes.
‘Night girlie!’ Laura types just before I log out of Facebook and toss my phone onto my bedside table.
Obviously, I don’t immediately fall asleep as I contemplate my friends’ advice. Looking back on it, it’s obvious that Mark WAS flirting, and even though I obviously wasn’t, he could easily have thought that I was merely because I talked to him. I let out a quiet groan as I check my email on my phone, and sure enough, at the top of my inbox is an email from ‘Mark Hyson’ that simply reads ‘Hey’.
“Ugh,” I spit, before tossing my phone back into my suitcase and trying to get some sleep.
Fortunately, when I wake up on Wednesday morning, the sound of Timon, Pumbaa and my three youngest siblings coming from the suite’s main room immediately puts a smile on my face. And of course, that smile widens when I open the door and am again greeted by the sight of Cassie, Dorothy and Eddy engrossed in the cartoon. The two girls are thankfully a little less hyper than they were yesterday, having already met the princesses they were obsessed with, which is definitely making mum look a little happier- though dad’s still looking as miserable as he did yesterday.
“Don’t forget we’ll be going to Adventureland today, Ashley,” mum says. “There are some water rides so-“
“Yeah, I know,” I say with a grin as I head into the en-suite to shower and apply my make-up for the day ahead.
Unlike yesterday, I only apply a very minimal amount of make-up, just some mascara and eyeliner, before heading back to my room and picking out my outfit for the day ahead. With mum’s ‘caution’ in mind, I reach into my suitcase for an item of clothing I only received a few weeks ago, but have been dying to try on.
The item in question is what looks on the outside like a simple one-piece swimsuit, but is considerably more special than that. For starters, the pattern is very significant- it has five vertical stripes running the length of the suit. The outer two are light blue, the next inner two are pink, and the central stripe is white, the same colour as the transgender pride flag. Nikki- the woman who sent me the suit (and who has been my unofficial 'mentor' for the last few months) also made a few alternations to it, including a 'pouch' at the front to keep the crotch looking perfectly flat, and a bit of padding on the chest to enhance my 'shape'. Not to ridiculous levels, of course, but once I've stretched the suit over my hairless body, I'm indistinguishable from any other fourteen year old girl wearing a one-piece swimsuit. As I look at my reflection in the mirror, though, I can’t help but feel slightly uncomfortable, as while I’m happy with my new ‘shape’, it’ll undoubtedly attract the attention of every teenaged boy in the park as well…
Unfortunately, it’s much too hot today to pull on a second layer on top of my swimsuit, even if it is just a loose summer dress (and a dress wouldn’t be a good idea on rollercoasters anyway), so I pull on a very snug pair of black shorts (skirts being as bad an idea on rollercoasters as dresses) before slipping my feet into my flip-flops and heading out into the suite’s main room, where my two youngest sisters are already changed and dressed similarly to me- though obviously, Cassie is obviously wearing an extravagant, tutu-like skirt instead of shorts!
“What a pretty swimsuit!” Cassie squeaks as I giggle and do a quick twirl in the skin-tight garment.
“What a pretty skirt!” I reply, laughing happily as Cassie does a pirouette that causes the skirt to rustle loudly. “I like your dungarees too, Dorothy!”
“Thank you Ashley!” Dorothy giggles as she does a playful twirl in her denim outfit.
“Ah, you’re all looking so pretty today!” Mum giggles, her smile widening as Bryony steps out of our room in her own swimsuit and shorts, her long blonde hair scraped back into a tight ponytail. “Think this calls for another family photo!”
“I’ll take Eddy again,” Bryony says, clearly smirking internally as dad reluctantly hands our baby brother to the eleven year old girl. Naturally, dad has made sure that Eddy HASN’T got into the spirit of things- his dark blue Star Wars t-shirt and short jeans are a stark contrast to me and my sisters’ colourful clothes.
Nonetheless, the photo is taken, and minutes later, the seven of us are back at Disneyland, heading to Adventureland and its many attractions. We spend the morning exploring Pirates' Beach, riding Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril (which Bryony was thrilled to find she was just tall enough to ride- even if she was as white as a sheet after the ride!) before heading into neighbouring Frontierland and exploring the attractions including the Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing and Big Thunder Mountain (which Bryony, oddly enough, wasn't very keen on!).
After an exhausting (and, at times, wet!) morning, the seven of us head to Cowboy Cookout Barbecue, where we enjoy a hearty (and much to my parents’ relief, sugar-free) lunch. As we get ready to head back to the fun, however, my heart sinks when I spot a familiar face heading toward the restaurant- a face I’d desperately hoped to avoid for the rest of my stay at Disneyland.
“Hi Ashley!” Mark says with a goofy grin that yesterday, I found funny, but today I just find creepy.
“Hi…” I say cautiously. “I’m- umm, I’m kinda with my family…”
“Oh, umm, okay,” Mark says, obviously taken aback by my suddenly cool attitude. “Well, umm, my family’s heading toward Discoveryland, can we-“
“That’s where we’re going now!” Cassie squeaks, making me silently curse. “Maybe you can come with us!”
“That’d be great!” Mark laughs as he- followed by his parents and his sister- accompanies my family- or rather, me- to Discoveryland on the opposite side of the park. “So, umm… Did- did you get my email last night?”
“Haven’t checked my email since I’ve been here,” I lie in response.
“Weren’t you on Facebook last night?” Bryony asks, making me silently curse yet again.
“Facebook… Chatting with friends?” Mark asks. “With- with a boyfriend? A cute boyfriend?”
“Just friends,” I say. “I’m- I’m, umm… Only, you know, ‘interested’ in- in girls.”
“Oh,” Mark says, before his eyes go wide. “Oh. Umm, okay. That’s a real- that’s a real pity, you know?”
“Not for me, it isn’t,” I say, and for the first time since Mark showed up again, I feel myself starting to relax.
“Well- umm, do- do you have a girlfriend?” Mark asks.
“Not right now,” I reply, a smug smile creeping across my face. Hopefully he’ll take the hint…
“I, umm… I like your swimsuit,” Mark says, causing me to exchange a look of disbelief with my oldest sister.
“Thanks,” I mumble.
“I’m sure I’ve seen that pattern before,” Mark continues. “Is- is it something special?” Ooh, now HERE’s where we see who you REALLY are, I think to myself.
“Yeah,” I reply. “It’s the colours of the transgender pride flag.” I bite my lip as Mark suddenly stops dead in his tracks and stares at me with a look of utter disbelief on his face.
"The- the trans-" Mark stammers.
"Yeah," I say, folding my arms over my chest.
"Are- are you-" Mark splutters.
"A girl?" I ask. "I'd have thought that was obvious!" I bite my lip out of frustration as Mark's face changes from one of disbelief into one of utter disgust.
"Ew- uh- eugh!" Mark sneers. "You- you sick tranny!"
"DON'T speak to my sister like that!" Cassie suddenly pipes up, startling myself and my entire family. "Ashley is a beautiful girl AND she's a ballerina too!"
"No," Mark sneers. "No- no IT isn't! IT is a freak, and a weirdo, and a-"
"Don't," dad says, shooting a death glare at the young man that stops his rant dead in its tracks. Before Mark can retort, however, his parents storm up to us with a look of pure fury on their faces- and their fury isn't directed toward me.
"Mark Philip Hyson, what the HELL are you doing!?" Mark mother yells, and for a moment, I could swear I saw the boy actually physically shrink in size.
"Buh- muh- but HE's a tranny!" Mark pleads.
"We did NOT raise you to treat other people like this!" Mark's father growls, before turning to my father. "I apologise on behalf of my son. To all of you. We thought he was raised better than this. Obviously we're going to need to teach him SEVERAL lessons when we get home!"
"Apology accepted," dad says, extending his hand. "Andy Moore."
"Dave Hyson," Mark's father says, shaking dad's hand. "You've got a very mature, sensible daughter in Ashley. You should be proud of her." That'll be the day, I think to myself as I roll my eyes.
"...Thanks," dad mumbles.
"As for you," Mr Hyson says to his son. "We are going to have some SERIOUS words when we get back!" My family and I watch as Mark's parents drag the whimpering boy away, leaving us stood in the middle of the park in a VERY awkward silence.
"...Who wants an ice cream?" Mum asks, forcing a smile onto her face that falls quickly when she sees the frowns on mine, dad's and, surprisingly, Bryony's faces.
"I want one please!" Cassie predictably replies.
"Heh, you deserve one!" I chuckle at the beaming girl.
"But don't ever stand up to a bigger boy like that again," dad cautions. "Boys like that, they- they're not afraid to hurt people smaller than them." I frown as dad's words clearly frighten Cassie- however, it's impossible to argue with them.
"But- but you wouldn't let anything bad happen, would you, daddy?" Cassie asks. "To me OR to Ashley?"
"Well- no, of course not..." Dad mumbles.
"I- I think we should go and get that ice cream," mum says. "Come along, Bryony."
"But- but I-" Bryony protests, before sighing and following my mum and our sisters, leaving me alone with dad.
"...Thanks," I mumble. "I know that wasn't easy for you."
"The last year and a half hasn't been easy for me," dad sighs. "Though it's obviously been harder for you, I won't deny that. That- that thing just now proves that. Though you know you got off lightly, right?"
"Yes," I say bluntly, moving my cowlick to one side to reveal the scar still above my left eye. "I'm not an idiot, dad. I know I probably shouldn't have led him on. I didn't even realise I WAS, I mean- ugh. Way to ruin a great holiday..."
"Only if you let it ruin the holiday," dad says.
"Like the way you've let me being a girl ruin your holiday?" I retort, grimacing as I expect an angry response- however, dad has no response to my words.
"...Come on," dad mumbles. "Want to get to Discoveryland before dinnertime..." I force a smile on my face and nod in agreement, but as we set off toward the final part of the park that we haven't explored yet, I feel a twinge of guilt.
Dad has had so, so many opportunities to have been 'proven right about me' over the last few months. From Sam's attack, to the repeated teasing I've endured at school, and now Mark, today... he could easily have stood back and allowed Mark to humiliate me. But he didn't. He could've sided with Sam over my attack, said 'I had it coming', but he didn't. He could've refused to allow me to transition... And in fairness, he almost did. The only thing that stopped him was when it was explained how much it'd damage me mentally to make me suppress who I really am. The only thing that made dad step in and stop Mark was a desire to not see his child- regardless of gender- publicly insulted and humiliated. He does care for me... But he still obviously has a long, long way to go. Still, at least he's willing to try, if nothing else. It's just a pity that the frown on his face is wider than ever...
As we head into Discoveryland, I try to force myself to enjoy the last day of our holiday, but the confrontation with Mark, and the conversation with dad, make it nearly impossible. Looking around at my sisters, it's almost like mine and dad's foul mood is infectious, as they seem to be down in the dumps as well. Maybe they're FINALLY tired out. Or maybe they're miserable because this part of Disneyland doesn't have any princesses...
"Hmm," I mumble to myself as a plan forms in my head. The last time we visited Disneyland, in 2008, it was before Disney bought other companies, including Marvel comics, and Lucasfilm, who make...
"Oh my god!" I squeak as I point to a nearby man in a shiny costume. "It's C-3PO!"
"Wh- what?" Dad asks, suddenly perking up. Thought that'd get your attention...
"Can you take a photo of me with him, dad?" I ask as I pose next to the performer. "Come on, Bryony, Cassie!"
"But you think Star Wars is stupid," Bryony protests.
"Uh- no, I never said that, did I?" I retort. "And besides, you liked the Force Awakens, didn't you?"
"...A bit," Bryony mumbles as she stands next to me and C-3PO. "I liked the girl in it, the one who became a Jedi at the end."
"Yeah, she WAS cool," I say as I try to force myself to be enthusiastic about the film series. In truth, I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world- I think the movies are alright, definitely exciting, but not really my 'thing'. Dad, on the other hand, LOVES Star Wars, and as my sisters come to pose with me and the man in the metal suit, his frowns slowly but surely vanishes.
"You know," dad says, "I was reading online about this 'Jedi training academy' they have here for kids... Pity it's just for kids, heh!"
"If I may, sir?" 'C-3PO' says in a nearly flawless imitation of the character's voice, "the Jedi Training Academy is only for young padawans aged 7-12, so I fear that your eldest daughter may be a little too... 'Advanced' with the force to qualify."
"Aww," I sigh, before turning to Bryony with a smirk on my face. "Bryony here's only eleven, though..."
"Aww," Bryony moans in a VERY different tone from my earlier sigh.
"Well- perfect!" Dad chuckles. "Bryony, don't you want to be a Jedi, like Rey?" Bryony opens her mouth to protest, before I stop her with a smile and a nod towards dad, who for the first time this holiday, actually looks happy to be here...
Fifteen minutes later, my family and I watch with wide grins as Bryony, clad in the brown robes of a padawan, is stood with a group of other children her age swinging her 'lightsaber' around under the instruction of the 'Jedi Master'. As time goes on, her frown turns into a genuine smile, and by the time a man in a Darth Vader costume arrives, she is laughing with excitement as she and the other padawans work together to drive the dark lord back.
"Well?" Dad asks as Bryony comes to us after having successfully defeated the dark side of the force. "Did you enjoy it?"
"It was fun," Bryony shrugs in her typical manner, though both dad and I can tell from the twinkle in her eyes that she thought it was a lot more than just 'fun'.
"Well then," dad chuckles, "I know who I'll be taking with me to watch The Last Jedi in December!"
"Who ELSE you'll be taking," I say with a smile that my father instantly reciprocates as we head to one of the restaurants in Discoveryland for dinner. Before we get there, however, dad places a gentle hand on my shoulder.
"Thanks, Ash," dad whispers.
"For what?" I shrug.
"For- well, this," dad says. "I know you don't like Star Wars really. But I appreciate the gesture."
"Who says I don't like it?" I ask. "Just because I'm a girl, it doesn't mean I can't like Star Wars, just like being a boy means you're not allowed to like Frozen, or Cinderella, or that sort of thing."
"Well- yeah, I know, but- ehh. Thanks anyway," dad says with a smile, giving me a fatherly pat on my shoulder as we get ready to eat what will be our final meal at Disneyland.
The following morning, all of us- even dad- have sad smiles on our faces as we pack our bags and prepare to head back to London.
"Can we come back next summer?" Cassie asks. "Please? Pretty please?"
"Maybe if we win the lottery," dad laughs.
"But I'll be seven next summer," Cassie continues, "and PC3O said that means I can be a Jedi like Bryony!" Unsurprisingly, this causes dad to pause and think for a moment.
"Maybe not NEXT summer," dad says with a grin. "...I'll think about it."
"Yay!" Cassie- who is, of course, too young to realise that 'I'll think about it' means 'no'- squeaks, giving dad a long, tight hug that Dorothy quickly joins in.
"As long as you've ALL had a good time on this holiday, okay?" Mum asks, to which we all enthusiastically nod. "Good. Now come on, the sooner we get home, the sooner we can get unpacked and relax!" I grin as I help my parents load our cases onto the trolley and cart them down to the waiting taxi, which whisks us to the nearest train station.
Before long, we're back in the familiar surroundings of western London, and back in our home, where I help unload the cases from the taxi before collapsing heavily onto the sofa, which earns a playful kick in the shin from my father.
"On your feet," dad chuckles. "Got a lot of unpacking to do, THEN you can lay about!"
"Yes, Obi-Wan," I say, earning a genuine laugh from dad as I take the suitcases upstairs and help my sisters unpack.
"Thank you, Ashley!" Cassie and Dorothy say in unison as I put their fancy dresses onto coat hangers and hang them up in their shared wardrobe.
"Ah, you're welcome!" I laugh. "You both loved Disneyland, then?"
"Stupid question!" Bryony giggles from the doorway as she comes in and sits down on the bed next to our two younger sisters.
"Did you enjoy Disneyland, Bryony?" Cassie asks.
"It was fun- no, it was GREAT!" Bryony giggles. "So great to be there with my three sisters."
"...Yeah," I say, exchanging a shy smile with the eleven year old girl. One thing's for sure- I certainly enjoyed it more as a 14 year old girl than I did when I was a 5 year old boy, and infinitely more than I would have done had I been a 14 year old boy. And for the first time ever, I think dad might actually be enjoying having a 14 year old daughter. There's a long way to go, sure, but we are at least moving in the right direction.
The second I'm finished putting my sisters' clothes away, a knock comes from the front door, and I squeak with excitement as I open it to find Mia, Harriet and Laura all standing there with wide grins on their faces.
"Hey girlie!" Laura giggles as she gives me a tight hug. "How was Disney?"
"AMAZING," I reply. "Knackering too, try going there with three little sisters, hehe!"
"Aww, I bet they were SO cute, though!" Mia giggles. "Get loads of photos? Selfies with all the princesses?"
"Of course," I giggle as I lead my friends to the living room, where all three of them sit down on the sofa cross-legged- and I can't help but notice the slender bronzed legs of my fellow T-girl poking out from underneath her skin-tight miniskirt. "...I'm not the only one who's been getting some sun, then?"
"Enjoy it while it lasts!" Laura giggles.
"Ugh, SO jealous," Harriet sighs. "HATE having pale skin..."
"Uh- excuse me?" Mia snorts, gesturing to her own untanned legs. "You think YOU have pale skin?"
"You haven't got as many freckles as me," Harriet retorts.
"Girlies," Laura sighs. "Let's agree that ALL of us are cute, tan or no tan, okay?"
"Easy for you to say when you've had a cute boy tell you how cute you are all summer!" Mia snorts. "Meanwhile I'm sat here, single and unloved..."
"Aww," Laura giggles, giving the raven-haired girl a playful cuddle. "Just say the word, I'll set you up with one of Kain's friends..."
"Ew- thanks but no thanks," Mia snorts.
"Then what type of boy DO you want?" I ask.
"One who's cute, sensitive, not obsessed with sport or videogames..." Mia replies.
"Don't take this the wrong way Mia," Harriet says with a sly grin, "but what you just described sounds like a GIRL to me!"
"...You wish," Mia snorts, making the ginger-haired girl laugh. "Besides, shouldn't we be talking about how Miss Moore here has been drawing boys to her like a magnet?"
"It was one boy, and no, no we shouldn't," I say, before sighing. "Besides... Dickhead bolted the second he found out I was trans."
"Ugh," Laura spits. "Sorry to hear that, Ash."
"Did- did he hurt you?" Harriet asks with concern in her voice.
"No," I sigh. "Was about to tear into me in public, but one look from dad scared him off."
"Huh, there's hope for him after all, then," Harriet muses.
"And you didn't see any girl you fancied at Disney, then?" Mia asks.
"No," I sigh. "Didn't really have time for a holiday romance anyway."
"Ah well," Harriet says. "Plenty of girls here in London for you to check out!" Much to my surprise, the ginger girl punctuates her sentence with a wink, which causes a tingle of excitement to spread throughout my body. Could- could Harriet actually fancy ME?
"Umm, where- where are the others?" I ask.
"Nicole and Megan are looking after their younger brothers," Laura explains. "Only barely got out of babysitting Lily myself. Think Priya and Suriya are visiting family in Birmingham. So, it's just the four of us today!"
"Well..." I say as I remember the way I press-ganged my little sister into helping me yesterday. "There IS one other member of our gang here today... Bryony! Get in here!"
"What?" My eleven year old sister moans, before seeing my friends sat on the sofa. "Oh, hi Harriet, Mia, Laura."
"We're having a girly gossip session," I explain. "And as you're going to be going to school with us next year- well, next month, heh!"
"Seems only fair that you join in!" Mia giggles, making room on the sofa for Bryony to squeeze between her and Harriet.
"You looking forward to it, Bryony?" Harriet asks.
"A bit," my sister shrugs. "It's going to be weird the first few days."
"Well don't worry," Laura says with a warm grin. "We'll look after you, won't we, Ashley?"
"...You did a good enough job of looking after me," I say with a smile. "Wouldn't be sat here right now looking like this if it wasn't for you girls."
"Aww," Mia sighs. "Well the important thing is, you're our sister now. And that makes you our sister too, Bryony!"
"...Great, just what I need, more older sisters," Bryony retorts, making my three friends all laugh.
"Shocked and appalled," I snort, actually earning a giggle from Bryony.
"Good," my sister retorts as the five of us immerse ourselves deep into our gossip session.
My three friends only stick around for an hour before leaving, but as they go, they make sure to exchange hugs with both myself and Bryony, ensuring my sister that she'll be as much a part of the group as I am a few weeks from now. Mia is the last to leave, and as she gives me my hug, she leans in to whisper in my ear.
"Told you you were cute," Mia says, subtly winking at me and sending yet more tingles down my spine as she heads off with the rest of my friends.
"What did she say?" Bryony asks.
"...I'll tell you when you're fourteen," I giggle, before heading up to my bedroom and crashing on my bed.
I should be offended that Mark was disgusted to find out that I was transgendered, but in truth, there's a very real part of me that's flattered that he was ever attracted to me at all. And now both Harriet and Mia seem to have a thing for me too... In the past, I was so obsessed to become a girl that at times I never thought about what it would be like once I'd finally achieved my dreams. And whilst there are a hell of a lot of downs, there are a hell of a lot of ups, too, and being seen as an attractive girl is DEFINITELY an up.
Who know- I may even end up meeting the girl of my dreams. Hell, there's a chance that I already have...
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